Briefing Book | Once more to the trough

The Senate Trough

Senate Deliberations

If it weren’t for mixed messages, the US Senate wouldn’t be sending any messages at all.

Yesterday, WaPo ran a story about how the Senate, once hot to trot on passing a climate change bill, had decided to rein it in. Climate legislation got its first hearing before Senator Barbara Boxer’s Environment committee on Tuesday. Afterwords, Grist’s Kate Sheppared noted, Boxer’s office was planning to vote on a bill in “early August.”

Two days later, Boxer announced that they’ll have a bill “as soon as we get back” from the Senate’s last-of-summer break. Translation: See you in September. A final vote may not come before December’s UN conference in Copenhagen on climate change.

Said Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), “I don’t even expect it to come up this year.”

WT@$#?

Good question. The answer is, unsurprisingly, special interests.

Joe Lieberman (RepublicanposingasanIndependent-CT) wants to insert a “No Nukes Left Behind” provision. Shunned by the House, the nuclear power industry is looking to the Senate to grab a piece of the action coming from a bill for clean and renewable energy. (The fact that nuclear power is neither clean nor renewable only makes the industry shout louder).

And what about agribusiness, which stands to receive only a paltry sum of hundreds of millions of dollars under the concessions doled out by the House? That needs to be negotiated, says Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). According to the WaPo piece:

Asked if he thought the Senate could pass a bill this year, Harkin, with 33 years serving in Congress, said on Wednesday, “My experience here is that these things take a lot of time.”

Which is the one thing scientists insist we don’t have, if we are to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

But now comes word, via Environment & Energy news, that Senate Dems are really juiced about getting a climate bill done ASAP.

WT#$%@*#%$!&%$!?!

An even better question. The answer is, again unsurprisingly, spin.

Senator Tom Harkin (still D-still from IA) is quoted in this story as saying that, in essence, Reid has put the climate bill on the fast track.

“He’s pretty hot on it,” said Harkin. “He wants the bill done. And the president wants it before December.”

Feeling whip-lashed yet? Confused?

Here comes Senator John Kerry (D-MA), to break it down. Brace yourself.

“Look, our goal is to pass it [by Copenhagen]. I don’t think we even have to have it passed, essentially. But our goal is to do that. And it’s better if it is. But it’s not catastrophic if it isn’t.”

President Obama must have a strong climate bill passed by the Senate when he goes to Copenhagen. With that in his pocket, the heads of state gathered in Denmark will see Obama as the world leader on the issue he called “one of the defining challenges of our time,” at the G8 meeting this week in Italy.

Without such a bill, Obama, and our nation, will be seriously weakened on an issue where we need to be strong.

The League of Conservation Voters took some heat when they announced that in the next election, they would not endorse any member of the House who failed to vote for HR 2454, the Waxman-Markey bill.

At the time, I figured it more rhetoric than substance, a way to generate debate and focus attention on the bill, and I asked the group for an off-the-record response to my view.

I got a strongly-worded on the record response.

This is the most important environmental bill of our generation and LCV cannot endorse a candidate who votes against it. Any who feel that stand is too extreme don’t understand the urgency of passing this bill and putting millions of Americans to work creating clean, safe, American energy.

Here’s hoping the LCV — and a critical mass of Americans — feel the same way about the Senate vote. Maybe Senators need to see what the pig never does:  just beyond the trough lies the abattoir.

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